Thursday, March 15, 2018

Articles: Italy, Sept. 28-Oct.1, 1943 - Pt 10.

Allied Troops Italy, Supplied by 80th Canadian Flotilla of Landing Crafts

A19320. Taranto, 9 September 1943 (Operation Slapstick): View from
a landing craft, loaded with soldiers, as it approaches Taranto harbour, 
bringing reinforcements for the operation. 

Full Caption: British airborne troops approaching Taranto in a landing craft, during the invasion of Italy, 14 September 1943. Photo Credit - Lt. L.C. Priest, RN Official Photographer. Imperial War Museum (IWM).


Several Allied operations were in play during the invasion of Italy beginning in early September, 1943. Operation Baytown occurred at Reggio di Calabria on the toe of the boot; Operation Avalanche took place at Salerno northwest from the toe; Operation Slapstick (above photo) took place at Taranto near the heel of the boot; and another landing took place at Anzio, on Salerno's left. 

 Canadians in Combined Operations, members of the 80th Flotilla of Landing Crafts were in action at Reggio, landing Canadian troops and supplies for the first time, and - as mentioned earlier - lived where possible in Messina, Sicily and completed transporting duties for about 30 days in September and early October. On days off they water-skied, did a bit of sight-seeing, purchased or acquired the odd souvenir and scrounged for food and clothing as best they could.

As many readers already know, the war in Italy, e.g., even to reach and gain control of Rome, went on for many more months, well into 1944. To my knowledge, Canadians and their landing crafts left the scene in Messina during the first week of October 1943 before returning to England.

Some details concerning the second landings have already been provided in earlier posts, and more information is listed below as found in articles presented in The Winnipeg Tribune and other sources.

As well, along with actual veterans' stories and memoirs from the Mediterranean, several other news clippings and ads are displayed from The Tribune that provide "a sense of the times" in 1943.

*   *   *   *   *

An editorial cartoon related to neutral countries appeared in the Sept. 28 issue of The Tribune:

A map shown in the same newspaper shows Allied advance, some near Salerno on the lower coast of italy. German troops dug in, defended yardage fiercely and a long and winter lay ahead:

According to the map below, the "soft underbelly of Europe" was slowly falling under Allied control.:

"Monty" was clever not to raise expectations about an early end to the war. Axis capitulation is many months away:

Though the photo below of an LST (Landing Ship, Tank) was taken during a training exercise, it reveals that crafts that could haul and disembark tanks onto a beach were growing in size.

Early in the war, PM Winston Churchill was aware of the need to build large crafts to carry tanks in support of troops once they were delivered to hostile shores. This from The Watery Maze:

Page 68, from a well-used book by Bernard Fergusson

I include the following light-hearted story because it has a connection to a Canadian story (offered below the clipping):

In late 1941 the first Canadians (already members of RCNVR) volunteered for the unknown after reading and hearing about a 'Volunteers Needed' bulletin found at HMCS Dockyard (near HMCS Stadacona and Wellington Barracks). Al Kirby of Woodstock, Ontario writes the following:

I was finishing my Seaman Torpedo Course in Halifax Dockyard, when I saw a notice asking for volunteers to go to England to train with the Royal Navy for hazardous duties on small craft. I immediately thought Motorized Torpedo Boats. Now that sounded very exciting to a 17 year old, so I reported to the Petty Officer and applied. Yes, I was qualified. I was single and warm. (From The Yardarm, an RCNA newsletter)

My father recalls that same notice in his memoirs:

One day we heard a mess deck buzz or rumour that the navy was looking for volunteers for special duties overseas, with nine days leave thrown in. Many from the Effingham Division, including myself, once again volunteered. The buzz was true and we went home on leave....

Dad also wrote that the Canadians volunteered for “the unknown.” They knew little more than “special duties overseas, hazardous duties on small craft, nine days leave thrown in.”

After the fall of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad in early
1943, the Russian Army was making more gains westward.

The Allies were making more gains in Italy, northward

The following is a lengthy story that has an unusual (and direct) connection to the Canadians in Combined Operations who are working - at this time - in Italy, shuttling supplies from Messina to Reggio. Within a few months my father and his mates would come in contact with "the sole survivor" W. A. Fisher, seen and mentioned below:

W. A. Fisher is mentioned again in these digital newspaper offerings (in the next collection, October 2 - 6, 1943), as well as in my father's memoirs. He writes the following:

Wm. Fisher, a stoker (not of Combined Ops but of R.C.N.V.R.), was stationed there. He had, I believe, an unequalled experience. He was on an Atlantic convoy run, on H.M.C.S. St. Croix, and one night in rough seas the St. Croix was sunk and he was the lone survivor. His life jacket had lights on and later he was picked up by the English ship H.M.S. Itchen. (Page 41, "DAD, WELL DONE")

My father's notes about Fisher do not end there. More will be added in connection to the next entry about Fisher's unusual story.

Link to an account of the story at The Naval Museum of Manitoba.

"E N O, ENO, when you're feeling low, ENO"

Lord Louis Mountbatten, formerly the Commander of Combined Operations, is now moving eastward as Supreme Commander of East Asian forces:

Canadian Women were serving on different fronts during WWII as were women in other Allied nations. Invaluable service was provided by WRNS, CWACs and more organizations. Below is a CRAF, I believe, similar perhaps to the British WRAFs. 

Doug Harrison, Canadian in Combined Ops at a Canadian canteen?

Germany's new battle line was drawing away from an earlier battle front near the Volga River and Stalingrad and moving west, toward Germany itself.

More news clippings from The Winnipeg Tribune to follow.

Please link to Articles: Italy, September 24-27, 1943 - Pt 9.

Unattributed Photos GH.

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